By Jarret Liotta
UPDATE Days after announcing Staples High School 2020 graduation plans, school officials have revised them to include an “in-person graduation experience.”
The change was in response to a loosening of the governor’s social distancing restrictions. [On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that outdoor, in-person graduations will be allowed starting July 6 with no more than 150 people attending.]
The first-ever Graduation Parade for Staples High School (SHS) — or more accurately a series of nine small ones — is due to take place on Thursday, June 11, beginning at Long Lots Elementary School (LLS) around 10 a.m.
Principal Stafford Thomas announced tonight that students will also be given a chance to get out of their cars in front of SHS, where a stage will be set up.
They will cross the stage in their cap and gown, have a photo taken with their diploma in hand, and turn their tassels before returning to their cars.
“Parents are able to look on up-close from the safety of their vehicles,” Thomas said.
“District and security personnel, wearing masks, will direct traffic and assist in the flow of the procession,” he said.
“In order to be granted the approval to do this, we have worked closely with and secured an agreement with both the Westport Police Department and the Westport-Weston Health District,” Thomas said.
“While we understand that seniors want, above all, to be together, and have asked us to wait to hold an in-person graduation or a socially distanced graduation on campus, at this time these options are not available to us,” Meghan Ward, assistant principal, wrote in an email last week to parents and SHS seniors.
Waves of 50 cars, which will have gathered at LLS in three batches at 10, 10:30 and 11 a.m., will be escorted by police along the route, which heads north up Hyde Lane to Long Lots Road, then follows over to, and up, North Avenue to SHS.
Cars will circle the school building to the right, then head up to Bedford Middle School (BMS), where they’ll continue out toward Cross Highway.
Parents or guardians have been asked to chauffeur students, who are asked to wear caps and gowns while seated in the front passenger seat, so as not to be distracted.
Families are offered a chance to put up banners north of BMS near Wakeman Field, but can only do this the day or night before. No parking will be allowed at the field or at either school the day of the event.
The 443 graduates are being told to arrive at LLS via the Post Road and Maple Avenue North, and will not be permitted to enter from Long Lots Road down Hyde Lane.
The SHS radio station WWPT will broadcast live beginning at 9 a.m. and throughout the parade. A live camera will be stationed at the front of the school and the parade will be streamed to Channel 78.
“The campus is going to look like an incredible celebration of our seniors,” Ward wrote.
“Students, we encourage you to decorate your car to celebrate yourself, your class and your graduation year,” she wrote.
At this time Friday, June 12, is scheduled as a rain date for the SHS parade.